Ready to dive back in to the study of the story of Joseph?
We mentioned last time that Joseph was seventeen, and we noted his illustrious dad and grand-dads. There's other things that we should notice here, concerning his family....
Ever hear the word dysfunctional? It's a popular word today, and gets tossed around by psychologists, talking heads, self-help authors, and more. It conveys a meaning of not working correctly, not within the bounds of what we consider normal.
Well, Joseph definitely grew up in a dysfunctional family: Jacob had FOUR wives; he had eleven sons among those four moms; only one was a full brother to Joseph (Benjamin, the youngest).
Think there could be trouble brewing?
On top of all those competing relationships, Joseph was his dad's favorite son, "the son of his old age." Joseph was the first son by Rachel, the woman Jacob always loved. Remember the story of Rachel and Leah, back when we studied women of the Bible? Jacob contracted with Rachel's dad to marry her; he worked for seven years to have that privilege -- and then Laban tricked him into marrying her sister, Leah. So, Jacob worked seven more years to get Rachel, the woman he'd fallen in love with.
So, Joseph was Jacob's son by Rachel, and he was his dad's favorite.
And all of his brothers knew it. This is not rocket science or neurosurgery; we can look at this and SEE that it's a disaster just waiting to happen!
One of our take-aways for today is this: Our backgrounds are no impediment to our service for the Lord. Our histories are not an obstacle for Him.
Let's look at Joseph.....he came from a family that in many ways was "out of the bounds of normal" when it came to relationships. It was not a neat, clean, one man-one woman family. Jealousy, competition, distrust, and envy were the "normal" here. It was not a happy, close-knit family, but God chose Joseph and used him for His glory.
Let's look at ourselves....not many of us come from perfect families, either. Actually, I've come to realize that there is no such thing! We may look from the outside and think we see close relationships and harmony, but the opposite may be the reality. The world is a messed up kind of place, and sometimes our families are messed up too. Why? Because the human heart is the most messed up of all. Our Bible tells us the truth about the human condition: the Bible says we are all sinners; it says we are all separated from God and dead in our sins; it says we are unable to help ourselves.
See how relevant the gospel is to our world today? It's not like the self help books that say, "You're OK just like you are." Or, "just try harder and you will end up OK." The gospel says:
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)Ever remember what comes right before that? The last part of verse 22 is:
No difference between Jew and Gentile; or rich and poor; or religious and pagan; or young and old; or criminal and clergy...... we are all in the same boat. We are all sinners. Broken, messed up people. Some of us know this, and some don't.
But.......why was I born? Why were any of us born?
Joseph's story is going to help us.
If you can relate to Joseph, this story is for you.
Are you from a broken, dysfunctional home? This story is for you.
Do you have trouble getting along with your siblings? This story is for you.
If your friends lied to you, or if you have done jail time, this story is for you, too.
If your family and friends don't understand you, this story is for you.
We're going to see that Joseph's story is just like ours -- it's a story of God unfolding and revealing His will a little at a time, until suddenly it's clear why we are here!
So, how did God's will unfold for Joseph? At the beginning of what we have divided into the 37th chapter of Genesis, Joseph is a shepherd along with his brothers in Canaan. By the end of the chapter he's a slave in Egypt! Wow! That HAS TO, GOTTA BE, DEFINITELY IS a turn in the wrong direction, don'cha think?
God has plans for Joseph......and he has to be in Egypt for those plans to be completed.
Let's see the steps in the timeline....
The seventeen-year old is a shepherd along with his brothers. But different from his brothers, he has a firmly held set of values. Look at this portion of verse 2:
.....his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.We can see that Joseph reported to his dad the things that he saw and heard. Tattle-tale? Maybe. A help to his dad, when some of his sons were not behaving well or honestly? Yup.
Also, he was marked as special at an early age.
This coat, or robe, has been hotly debated at times. Some say "many colors" and others say it was probably embroidered richly, and may have had long sleeves, like the sort of robe a son of a king might wear. Another topic of debate is whether or not Jacob was doing the right thing by giving this rich gift to his favorite son, and kind of celebrating his favoritism. But as a parent, I'm going to be the first one to admit that kids don't come with instruction books, so we make mistakes!
So when Joseph wears the robe, the robe sort of shouts, "My dad thinks I'm special!" And he also can't work in the fields very easily with those long sleeves.....
All in all, we have a simmering pot of meanness here, in the hearts of his brothers, and we'll see how things go tomorrow.